The French Alps are home to some of the highest peaks in Europe and the country is known for its mega ski areas. SnowTrex presents the 10 largest contiguous ski areas in France, including the largest in the world!
1. Ski region Les 3 Vallées
Pistes: 600 km
Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires – all these popular ski resorts can be reached with only one lift pass because they are located in the valley of the valleys – or rather, in THE three valleys: the region Les 3 Vallées is among the best that the Alps have to offer. – And not least in terms of size. 600 km of pistes covered by a connected lift network make these ski mountains located in the most beautiful part of the Vanoise massif the largest ski area in the world. The peaks rise between 2,129 m and 3,230 m. The highest mountain of the Vanoise chain, the Grande Casse, is even 3,852 m high. Above Val Thorens there are fantastic glacier descents of medium difficulty, several steep troughs await freeride pros on the steep slopes of La Saulire (2,738 m), and on the pistes above the ski villages you will find children’s areas and attractive snow parks.
2. Ski region Les Portes du Soleil
Pistes: 580 km
The mega ski area at the French-Swiss border is almost as extensive. The Portes du Soleil (eng. “Gates of the Sun”) have 580 km of piste to choose from, most of which can be found on French territory. The most well-known ski resorts are likely Avoriaz, Châtel, Champéry and Les Crosets. The two latter are on the Swiss side of the ski area, which means you should always bring your passport or ID-card when you want to cross the border. Plenty of fun is to be had in the huge winter sport area thanks to over a dozen snowparks and boarder-cross trails. The French villages, first and foremost the centrally located resort Avoriaz, as well as the neighbouring resort Morzine, have kept their original, Savoy charm. Both villages are good starting points for the numerous leisure activities in the valleys.
3. Ski region Paradiski
Pistes: 425 km
Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandy on the one side, La Plagne on the other – together the resorts make up Paradiski. The seamless connection between the two ski areas is available thanks to the Vanoise-Express: the huge gondola has been connecting the two areas to a united winter sports area with paradise-like 425 km of pistes since 2003. Paradiski is situated in the picturesque Isère valley in the northern section of Vanoise massif, which means it is right next to massive mountain chains with peaks reaching up to glacier zones. The glacier pistes on altitudes over 3,000 m are particularly attractive, and they offer wonderful views of the surrounding mountain giants such as Mont Blanc, which towers about everything else. At Bellecôte glacier in La Plagne you will find a 15 km descent which passes a 2,000 m difference in altitude. The region offers a total of over 250 pistes of varying lengths.
4. Ski area Via Lattea
Pistes: 400 km
Did you know? The Milky Way runs between Piedmont and the Hautes-Alpes – though not composed of stars, but made of gorgeous snow and ice. The ski area Via Lattea, just like the Portes du Soleil, stretches over a national border. The majority of the approx. 400 km of pistes is located in Italy, just outside Turin in the Piedmont region. About 20 % can be found behind the French border, in and around the winter sports resort Montgenèvre. The resort is situated at 1,860 m and offers pretty slopes at an easy to intermediate level. A large selection of attractive red pistes can be found in the Sauze d’Oulx and Sestriere areas on the other side of the large ski area.
5. Ski area Les Sybelles
Pistes: 310 km
The Top 5 is concluded with Les Sybelles in the heart of Savoy. The 310 km of pistes spread over all in all six ski villages, of which Saint Sorlin d’Arves and Le Corbier are among the most attractive. Apart from the wonderful atmosphere, they are particularly impressive because of their good location, right in the middle of the ski carousel between La Balme (2,240 m) and L’Ouillon (2,431 m). Above all, the charming Saint Sorlin with its pretty wooden houses is the perfect starting point for a successful day on skis. In the ski area of Les Sybelles, the many blue pistes are an advantage for families, giving beginners and children easy access to skiing fun. Parts of the region even carry the quality seal “Famille Plus” because of their particularly varied offer for families. More experienced skiers will certainly find suitable pistes, such as e.g. several black steep slopes, mogul slopes and a full-grown snow park.
6. Ski area Val d’Isère/Tignes
Pistes: 300 km
The ski region surrounding the popular ski resorts Val d’Isère and Tignes was called Espace Killy for a long time, named after Olympic champion Jean-Claude Killy. Accordingly, Val d’Isère is a fixed venue in the Ski World Cup, and a fashionable ski village right before the Italian border. Tignes is a modern ski station on an altitude of 2,100 m with guaranteed snow, which offers guests good gastronomy and varied après ski possibilities. Above both resorts there are 300 km of fine slopes. From the glacier at Grande Motte (3,656 m) down to Val d’Isère on 1,850 m, the ski region offers plenty of long descents. Olympic pistes and areal routes can be found just as well as beginner’s areas and forest slopes.
7. Ski area Grand Massif
Pistes: 265 km
With the Grand Massif in the Haute Savioe area, the proportions of the French ski domains become clear again and again: Austria’s largest ski area is hardly larger than the Domaine Grand Massif. With its 265 km of pistes, however, Domaine Grand Massif is only the seventh largest ski area in France. The two sections Flaine and Massif together make up the Grand Massif, with Flaine forming the centre of action at an altitude of 1,600 m. The long, red pistes at over 2,500 m above sea level are especially beautiful. From here, the panoramic view reaches as far as Mont Blanc.
8. Ski area Evasion Mont-Blanc
Pistes: 468 km
In the Haute Savoie region you will find Evasion Mont-Blanc, a real gem of a ski area in close vicinity to the highest mountain in Europe – the silent neighbour of the well-connected piste landscape is no one less than Mont Blanc (4,810 m). Megève is located in its shadow. A rural mountain village and elegant ski resort at the same time, the village can even compete with the sophisticated resorts in Switzerland. It is not without reason that Megève is known to be one of the “Best of the Alps” destinations, which have a particularly exclusive demands in terms of location and ski area. The cityscape is characterised by traditional and elegant architecture and an authentic mountain village idyll. Some of the pistes lead through forest sections, but from the descents above the tree line you have a fantastic view of Mont Blanc, which is almost within reach.
9. Ski area Serre Chevalier
Pistes: 250 km
Right next to Les Écrins National Park is the high-alpine ski area Serre Chevalier which comprises 250 km of the finest pistes. They start at an altitude of 2,800 m and lead down in valley runs to 1,200 m. In the lower part of the ski area, most of the pistes lead through beautiful larch and pine forests. Ski routes, snowparks, night skiing, ski schools – everything you could wish for is here. The main town of the valley, where you can find the wide ski slopes, is the lively Briançon. Along the valley there are also three other entry points to the ski area: Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Monêtier-les-Bains.
10. Ski area Alpe d’Huez
Pistes: 249 km
Those interested in sports know Alpe d’Huez as a stage destination of the Tour de France – winter sports enthusiasts love it for the unique ski area in the Grandes Rousses mountain massif: the Alpe d’Huez ski area has 249 km of pistes and is one of the most popular large ski areas in France. At altitudes of up to 3,300 m, you can ski above the clouds at Pic Blanc (3,330 m) and the Sarenne glacier. Up here is the start of the Sarenne piste – with its length of 16 km is it considered the longest black piste in the Alps.